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Sasha Minjarez | June 14, 2021

UTEP Department of Civil Engineering Fosters Student Involvement Through Internships

UTEP Department of Civil Engineering Fosters Student Involvement Through Internships


An internship is a rewarding stepping-stone meant to introduce students to future career prospects through a professional, immersive and field-specific experience.

Such was the case for Kuenley Pem Dem and Tashi Kaneko, recent graduates of The University of Texas at El Paso, who successfully demonstrated the value of internship involvement while attending the University.

During the summer of 2020, the UTEP students participated in NASA DEVELOP, a 10-week internship program that converges interdisciplinary initiatives that apply earth observations to advance communities on a global scale. The experience was not only meaningful to Dem and Kaneko but also helped introduce an entirely new generation of leaders to the application and practice of scientific and engineering disciplines.

“UTEP has included the participation in internships on the list of high-impact activities that students are encouraged to pursue as part of the UTEP Edge program. Professional internships are an excellent way for civil engineering students to complement their education and differentiate themselves from other civil engineering graduates in the state and country,” said Carlos Ferregut, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Civil Engineering. “Kuenley and Tashi were outstanding ambassadors of UTEP’s Department of Civil Engineering at the NASA’s summer internship program. Despite inevitable scheduling changes due to the pandemic and virtual nature of the DEVELOP program this year, our students became involved with cutting edge research projects and excelled among their peers. I’m immensely proud of them and wish them both well in pursuing their graduate work in Australia,” said Reza Ashtiani, Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering.

On August 7, 2020, participants of the program presented their projects to officials from NASA, the Kingdom of Bhutan, and members of the U.S. Department of State. Dem’s project focused on forging an elephant habitat sustainability model, while Kaneko focused on the study of water resources in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

“NASA DEVELOP for me was a very rewarding experience as it helped me develop my professional skill set in a very short time frame…It helped me learn not only about earth observation and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), but it also taught me about working efficiently within a team,” said Kaneko. “Though the term was held virtually over the summer of 2020, it was still able to develop me into a better professional and teach me many things about the professional world out there.”

“Working with NASA DEVELOP has not only advanced my understanding in earth observation but also helped me connect with many people within the science society,” said Dem “NASA DEVELOP partners with local and international organizations to solve existing issues, which makes the program very interesting. My experience was very challenging overall, but at the same time it was enjoyable. I have also gained essential professional and communication skills so quickly. I am sure if not for this project, I wouldn’t have gained these skills elsewhere.”

By applying for internships, students are preparing for professional success and can anticipate exponentially enhancing their educational and life goals.

“While interning with a company, students deal with real life engineering problems and have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they acquire in their classes, thus gaining invaluable experience that gives them an edge at the time of looking for a job after they graduate. Frequently, companies that offer internships also offer their interns a job upon graduation. The Department of Civil Engineering is continuously looking for opportunities for its students to participate in internships through its network of constituents. Ideally, we would like to have all of our senior students graduate with having participated in at least one internship during their studies,” Ferregut said.

The faculty and staff in the Department of Civil Engineering are available to guide students in selection of internships best suited to their career plans in their desired field in collaboration with UTEP Edge Center and UTEP Career Center, which assist with a myriad of resources that include resume building, mock interviews and LinkedIn Learning recommendations.

“Students participating in internships refine their professional skills, both in terms of major-related ones, and in transferable skills like leadership, communication, critical thinking. They often solidify their career goals while they are at it, and enter a professional network before even graduating. The Career Center highly recommends all students pursue this kind of development,” Nick Zweig, UTEP Career Center internship program manager said.

To learn more about internships visit the internship webpage at affairs/careers/students-alumni/find-job-or-internship.html or contact the main Career Center at

College of Engineering Communications

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